Food Safety Issues/Fresh vegetable safety


How do I make decisions about how long to keep fresh produce in regard to safety issues only? I was told long long ago by a home economist that fruit and vegetables were always a quality issue, never a safety issue--even unrefrigerated (as long as they were in their harvested state, not cut up and of course don't eat mold or slime),  but I cannot find that information officially anywhere. Instead I find charts and lists with very short storage times that puzzle me--maybe I'm not very picky or maybe stuff lasts longer because I live in California ag land. But I have lettuce that looks good after a week in the grocery store wrapper in the fridge, then another week in a Tupperware container after being washed and cored. I have celery that is in respectable shape after a month in Tupperware. It is hard for me to toss these without knowing why. Tomatoes, squash, or snap peas that are a bit withered at the top don't bother me. I also have a husband that pulls off a partly slimy outer layer of green onion and uses the rest, eats salad days after it was made even when the lettuce in it is turning brown on the edges, and cooks up withery potatoes over my protests. I know about chicken and salmonella, beef and e.coli, and toxins that are not killed with cooking, etc, but I have precious little safety information about fresh vegetables, or fruits for that matter. My depression-era-childhood mom eats months-old fruit.. We haven't died yet, but are we living on the edge?! When is unrefrigerated and refrigerated produce in harvested state actually unsafe? I know this is a big subject--I would also read a book on it if you have a recommendation. Thank you very very much for letting me ask!

First off Karey I am sorry I took so long to answer this as I see you posted this about a week ago. for some reason it just came to me today.
I see that you are very concerned over the safety of produce. I have extensive experience in this area. Your home economist was correct for the most part. Food safety issues regarding produce are extremely rare. Most involved contamination events that occurred in the field. Irrigation water was the culprit, contaminated with animal feces. there have been several outbreaks but the industry has responded by implemented stricter risk control programs. You really don't need to worry about food poisoning from fruits and vegetables unless they have been cut up or otherwise prepared by someone who is ill and doesn't practice good hygiene. If you store the items refrigerated then potential dangerous microorganisms cannot multiply and the items will remain safe for as long as they are held under refrigeration. The information is scarce but you can search google for "Produce Food Safety". You just don't need to worry too much about this.  

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Carl LaFrate


I can answer food safety questions relative to food processing, retail food and food salvage after a catastrophic event such as a hurricane, flood, ammonia leak or fire. Questions related to HACCP, Regulatory, GFSI, SQF, BRC, liability issues, contamination events, pest infestation, pest control methodology,food safety defense, pathogen prevention such as L. Monocytogenes control in food processing and retail, any subject related to food safety including at home issues.


30 years experience as a food safety consultant working for the top food processors, food retailers and insurance companies that write liability policies related to food processing, storage and distribution. My firm employees 6 full time food safety auditors. I work for top law firms throughout the USA and am a staff consultant for Douglas Peterson and Associates, one of the top forensic engineering firms in the world. I also work with Risk Solutions International, a global leader in risk management.

New York State Association for Food Protection, past president, executive board Central Atlantic States Association of Food and Drug Officials

Progressive Grocer Magazine Smart Money Magazine Private Label Buyer Magazine Supermarket News Natural Foods Merchandiser Magazine Food Service Director Magazine NYS Association for Food Protection Annual Report NYS Association for Food Protection Newsletter

Syracuse University, Microbiology/Biology NYS College of Environmental Sciences, Plant and Environmental Biology Cornell University, Food and Dairy Processing

Awards and Honors
Wm. Hickey Award (2006), NYS Association for Food Protection, for contributions in the field of food safety and sanitation New York State Integrated Pest Management Award (2007), NYS Assoc. for Food Protection, for contributions in the filed of integrated pest management.

Past/Present Clients
Pillsbury, Agri-Mark, Associated Grocers, Beatrice Foods, Cargill, Southern Cold Storage, Quaker, Ben & Jerry’s, Delverde Pasta (Italy), New York Bakery, Cabot Cheese, Hazelwood Farms, General Mills, Price Chopper Supermarkets, P&C Supermarkets, Great American Supermarkets, Tops Markets, Big M Supermarkets, Big Bear Supermarkets, Frito-Lay Distribution Centers, IBP, Excell, Eckerd Drugs, Rite Aid Drug Stores, Fay’s Drugs, Carl’s Drugs, AWI Wholesale Food Distribution, McLane Food Distributors, Golub Food Distribution, many supermarket chains (many include large scale specialty food service operations), Burger King, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Darden Foods (Red Lobster, Olive Garden), LSG Skychefs (Germany, US), Glen Mills Schools, Cornell University, Crider Poultry, Caesar’s Palace, The Oneida Indian Nation, Taylor Meat Packing, UCB Packaging Films

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